Fears need to be addressed

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I write regarding the article that was printed in Sunderland Echo on February 5 regarding the pumping of untreated mine water to sea in Whitburn.

I am sure many readers, like myself, will be wondering why the Coal Authority is discharging the mine water without any prior treatment.

The point at issue here is – why is it that the quality of the mine water being pumped at Whitburn is so different from that already being pumped at other stations so that it does not require treatment?

Looking at the coastal mine water pumping schemes that are already in operation, the one at Horden was initially intended to be a temporary pumping station until the one at Dawdon was established. Horden has been a permanent station for some years now and is provided with a series of reed beds to treat the water before it is discharged to sea.

The quantity of mine water being dumped at Dawdon is, I believe, greater than was originally predicted and this water is treated with chemicals before being discharged to sea.

It can be easily seen that the Horden and Dawdon pumping stations are having to pump more water than was originally predicted – is this also going to happen at Whitburn, I wonder?

Another mine water pumping station, Kibblesworth, is arranged so that the pumped mine water is piped to the Northumbrian Water Company’s Sewage Treatment Works at Lamesley where it flows through a series of reed beds before being discharged into the River Team.

So then why is the quality of the mine water being pumped at Whitburn so much better that it does not require treatment? The statement from the Coal Authority’s Head of Environment refers to the ‘dispersion modelling’ that was carried out by specialist consultants but does not answer this question.

The Coal Authority should give some explanation as to the reasons why it has designed the Whitburn scheme as it has, reliance on the dispersion modelling that was carried out is not adequate.

Clearly the Environment Agency has an important role to play in this issue and, hopefully, it has required the Coal Authority to demonstrate it can provide adequate treatment of the pumped water before discharge to sea if this is required in the future.

Regarding the mine water seeping through the limestone rock, the Coal Authority has been allowing this to happen for any years and the aquifer is already well polluted as the mine water has been allowed to rise until it is now quite close to the top of the magnesium limestone.

What the coal authority is not trying to do is to make sure it does not rise any further and completely pollute the aquifer. An important source of supply domestic water – from Northumbrian Water’s Fulwell Pumping Station, which is quite close to Whitburn, is clearly at risk here.

Alan Vickers